I was reading this news article about Tony Nicklinson losing his right to die yesterday, I started thinking about euthanasia. Should people have the right to die if they are severely ill and unable to end their own lives?
The arguments against
Many anti-euthanasia groups don't agree with euthanasia because they feel it will leave vulnerable people at risk of being killed without their consent, or after being talked into stating that they wish to die. They believe to allow any sort of murder is sending a mixed message. The article states
"A decision to allow their claims would have consequences far beyond the present cases. To do as Tony wants, the court would be making a major change in the law."
However, would allowing one case of a man who is severely unhappy really mean the law has to be changed on a general level? These cases should and are looked at case-by-case, therefore it doesn't necessarily follow that the ruling would have a major impact on those at risk of being taken advantage of.
The arguments for
A person who is not of restricted means has the right to kill themselves. It is not a choice that is promoted, but it is a possibility. Charities such as The Samaritans offer a service which helps people to discuss choices, but ultimately will not call an ambulance if the caller does not ask for one, and will stay on the phone during a person's final moments. If people who are able have the choice to end their lives, why can't those that are severely disabled without the chance of recovery, and feel they have a lower quality of life, particularly those with locked in syndrome.
The main issue is that those that are able can complete the suicide themselves, whereas those who cannot move cannot complete the act themselves, which puts others that try to help at risk. Clearly someone in this state cannot be killed and then the person completing the act simply states "he wanted to die", but if someone is clearly desperate to die and wishes to go to court to gain that right, there should be a process that can be put in place. Doctors do not resuscitate those who are in a vegetative state and don't have a chance of recovery, like in this case. Euthanasia is just another step completed out of compassion or pity.
It seems wrong to me to deny someone who is incredibly unhappy their right to take control of their own life. Forcing someone to live against their will is as wrong to me as forcing to die, a kind of anti-murder if you like. I know I am young and liberal, and there are issues such as the abuse of the law by bullying in order to gain inheritance, but I don't think this should mean the law simply says no. If someone does not want to exist in a state that offer no dignity or freedom, they should be offered the solutions they wish for. Locked in syndrome is an unusual and extreme case, and should be treated with an unusual and extreme set of rules. I imagine I would make the same decisions as the man in the article.
If you want to learn more about euthanasia, the films The Sea Inside, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (also a fantastic book) are great places to explore the idea further.